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Hormel donates close to $9,800 to wipe out school lunch debt

A donation of about $9,800 from Hormel Foods has wiped out the student lunch debt at Austin Public Schools and Pacelli Catholic Schools.

Of the debts, $5,785 were held by Austin Public Schools, while Pacelli had about $4,000.

Plant Manager Clint Walters said the company had been looking for an issue to work on in December and felt this issue of school lunch debt was a good thing to work on.

“You hear about it in the news and realize there is a need out in all of our communities to do something different there,” Walters said.

This work fits in with Hormel’s corporate goals of dealing with hunger in the world, he said.

As the educators in the room know, Walters said, nutrition is also critical to a child’s ability to learn.

Walters presented the checks to cover the debts to representatives from both school systems at Hormel’s North Plant, Wednesday.

Pacelli Board Chairwoman Sarah Nelsen said this makes a huge difference for students and their families at Pacelli, where about 50 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch.

“It truly does help out our families in need,” she said.

It also helps out the school which is now getting the revenue for the meals it served and that helps keep it on its tight budget.

“If we are not getting that income that we are expecting from our families for something like the food they are receiving, we need to come up with a solution to get around that deficiency,” Nelsen said.

The donation is a big step in helping Austin’s students.

“We all have grateful hearts tonight that a company would do that for our students,” said Austin Public Schools Food Services Director Mary Weikum.“It’s just a tremendous gift.”

This also benefits everyone, not just the affected students or the food service department, Weikum said.

If the school’s food service department cannot eliminate the debts, it has to come out of the general fund, meaning it takes funding from general education programs, she said.